Discussions by the Experts

Free Trade


Henry George called it “robbery by tariff.”  In a spirited defense of free trade over protectionism, published in 1886, George scoffed at those who thought that “steel-plated” coasts and not open economic interchanges were the best protection for American prosperity and freedom. More than a century later, the debate over the political and economic issue is as warm as ever. 

The Henry George School of Social Science is pleased to offer a free series of  talks on topics of vital concern to American wallets and American well-being.  Speakers offer differing (and often sharply clashing) perspectives on free trade and protectionism, and how those issues play into the bigger question of what “globalization” means in an increasingly interdependent yet still-fractured world.

Steve Sklar, Attorney-at-Law, covers the salient points in Protection or Free Trade, Henry George’s second-best-known book. The book provides George’s compelling thoughts not only on the fundamental defects of protectionism, but on the conditions which (even today) give rise to its perennial popularity. George showed us why free trade, as commonly enacted, is defective, and must be connected to the larger social issue of private property in land. Steve describes and improves upon George’s thoughts on immigration, and reflects on how George’s observations on trade policy from the perspective of the helpless laborer might account for the otherwise mystifying election of a powerful landlord.

Alan Tonelson is a member of the Board of Directors of the Henry George School of Social Science, founder of RealityChek, former associate editor of Foreign Policy magazine,  and long-time member of leading U.S. think tanks. He is the author of  The Race To The Bottom: Why A Worldwide Worker Surplus And Uncontrolled Free Trade Are Sinking American Living Standards. That title speaks volumes about Mr. Tonelson’s forceful views, but  he still has a lot more to say about free trade and protectionism.

We think of free trade as easing tariffs and other barriers to the flow of good and services, but free trade is really about the international flow of investment spending. We can’t understand free trade without understanding politics, says Dr. Jack Rasmus, and we can’t understand the politics of free trade without looking at how corporate-driven free trade agreements are eroding national sovereignty and democracy. It’s where the money is being made, as much from moving money as from moving goods, and money owes no allegiance to any flag.

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